Category Archives: family

Lake Louise

We headed out to Lake Louise for the day while in Banff National Park.  We got up early from the Johnston Canyon Campground and headed down the Bow Valley Parkway.  The plan was to hike up to Lake Agnes Tea House but my ankle was still swollen, I was still running a fever from being taken off the medication for my ankle.  We got there in good time and got a good parking spot (Parks Canada staff running the parking lots makes it run  very smooth).  As we walked up the path to the Tea House, I realized that a combination of rain, a fever, and a messed up ankle, I needed to understand my limits.  We’ll head back up there next year.

Before anyone feels sorry for us, did I mention we were still on the shore of Lake Louise?  It’s pretty spectacular view and we were about to find out that our fellow tourists were pretty great.

Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP2683Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkIMGP2695Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkLake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkOliver at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper, Mark Cooper, and Oliver Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National ParkWendy Cooper, Mark Cooper, and Oliver Cooper at Lake Louise, Alberta in Banff National Park

From there we headed down the mountain and stopped at Laggan’s Mountain Bakery and Delicatessen

Laggan's Mountain Bakery and Delicatessan

Everyone I know that has been to Laggan’s raves about how great it is.  You have to see and smell it to believe it.  Wendy picked out some Jamaican Patties and got use some of the best pizza I have ever tasted.  The bakery is worth the stop if you are even close to Lake Louise.

Johnston Canyon

We hiked last Johnston Canyon last year.  It was packed and I didn’t really like it at all.  This is the photo of it that has stuck in my memory.  Way too many people.

After hiking to Silverton Falls and checking out some of Castle Mountain, we came back to the campground while Wendy slept off a headache in her hammock.  After dinner, we went back to a now empty Johnston Canyon and hiked up to the lower falls.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

As we crossed this, we learned that Marley hates heights and really hates boardwalks.  She refused to walk across it unless I told her it was okay.  She would constantly look back at me and wait until I told her it was okay and then she would walk very low to the ground. This scene was repeated over and over again throughout the hike.  As long as she didn’t look down, she was fine.  If she did, she wasn’t happy.Johnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National ParkJohnston Canyon in Banff National Park

Growing up in Calgary after my dad left, we had no money at all.  Johnston Canyon was our summer vacation.  We would come up and hike the canyon and then have lunch at Sawback before heading back home.  It has always been a special place to me.  We always hiked it on a non-peak day so it never was packed like it is most days in the summer with people parked for miles in either direction.

Hiking it after dinner when the hordes have left was the Johnston Canyon that I recalled growing up.  Only about 20 people on the trail, let’s of room to explore, no idiots with selfie sticks whacking me on the head.  There were just a few people wanting to pet Marley which was a trend that would only escalate as the week went on.  It was a lot of fun.

If you are going to go in July or August, don’t go during the day.  Go early morning (before 8 a.m.) or in the evening (after 7:00 p.m.).  It is a way nicer hike on an empty trail.

Silverton Falls

On the second day there, we had planned to hike Johnston Canyon in the morning and then do Silverton Falls in the afternoon.  As Wendy blogged, I ran a high fever with an ankle feeling like it was going to snap for most of the trip.  She was exhausted as well so we slept in.  By the time we got up and going, the line to Johnston Canyon went a kilometre or so down the Bow Valley Parkway in each direction.  We hiked it last year and it was insanely packed with tourists.

Instead I drove down towards Castle Mountain and pulled into the parking lot for Rockbound Lake.  There is a short hike to Silverton Falls which I had never done and it looked like fun.  As we pulled into the parking lot, we met this camper from Wicked Campers.  The paintjob stood out just a little bit.

Wicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkWicked Campers at the trailhead for Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

With Mark turning 16, he is thinking of the kind of vehicle he wants, in part so he can travel with it.  We had a long discussion about GMC Safari’s and Chevy Astro vans on our way along the trail.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

After 400 metres or so, you come across this stream running down from the waterfall.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Then you start to climb up to the falls.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

A rockslide took a toll on the trail at this point.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Finally you get the falls which unlike Johnston Canyon, have no safety railings along the path.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

It’s a great view across the Bow Valley.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National ParkThe hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Finally it was back down the flank of Castle Mountain and back to the parking lot.  The hike is under a kilometre long and we met a total of 12 people on it which is far different then Johnston Canyon.

The hike to Silverton Falls in Banff National Park

Johnston Canyon Campground

Well we are back from vacation in Banff National Park and later Yoho National Park.   It was a great week but once that almost didn’t happen.  A few weeks ago they took me off my antibiotics because they thought they had killed the infection (again) and of course we know what happened.  In three days I was overwhelmed with fevers and extremely sick just before the holidays.  So I was back on my medication but it takes weeks for it to catch up to the infection.

The day  before we were to leave, I was really sick.  It had gotten worse and I was really suffering.  I went to be knowing that all I wanted was to sleep for the next week.

I got up early last Sunday and felt even worse.  I talked to Wendy and said that her and the boys should go without me.

They loaded the car and went to leave.  I had gotten some sleep and felt a little better. I didn’t feel strong enough to go but I had some food and talked it over with Wendy and decided to go.  I did warn her that I may do nothing more than sleep all week.  She was okay with that.

We had intended to leave Saskatoon, contact some friends and grab some coffee as we passed through town.  Now we left Saskatoon really late and it was going to be a rush to get to the campground before nightfall.

Sadly we were very  early onto a horrible motorcycle crash.  Guy on a road bike, wet highway, looks like he lost control.  When we got there, he was lying on the highway and being held down.  It was a horrible sight but ambulance was on route and First Responders were already there.

We rolled in Johnston Canyon Campground around 9:00 p.m. and Mark and I rushed to set up the tents.

This was Wendy’s and mine tent.  I know it’s massive.  It is an eight person tent that I picked up at Walmart a few years ago.  I am not a big fan of Walmart tents but I bought some Nikwax Tent & Gear SolarProof and applied it.  The SolarProof protects the tent from UV radiation at higher altitudes while making it waterproof.  We did get some heavy rain a few days and nights and we never had a leak all week.  Several times I found myself laying in it and going, “this should be leaking” but it wasn’t.

Our tent at Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

The tent doesn’t come with a ground sheet.  So I decided to pick up some tarps.  I measured the tent spent $3 on tarps from Dollarama and used Gorilla Tape to fasten them together created one.  The ground sheet saves the bottom of the tent and acts as a bit of a vapor barrier between the tent and the ground.

A five person tent at Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

We had some tents already but my brother Lee gave this tent to the boys when he upgraded.  The 8 person tent served as home for Wendy and I while Mark and Oliver lived in the smaller five person tent.  It’s a three season tent with a big vestibule.  They loved having their own space.  The fact that it came from their uncle and aunt made it even cooler for them.

The only complaint was we never had a night where I felt 100% confident that we would not get rain.  Oliver really wanted to “sleep under the stars”.  Either that or he really wanted to see what else was going on while he slept in the tent.

An eight person tent is too big for two people but one can stand up in it and there was room for our queen sized air mattress.  Since I had a dog sleeping in my arms every single night, all of the space we could get was needed.

I had purchased Wendy a hammock for Mother’s Day.  I gave strict orders to the boys that this was Wendy’s hammock.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

I had my hammock as well.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

According to this, I was late giving the edict that this was MY hammock.  By the time I went to lay in it, it had already been infested.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

You have no idea how hard it was to get them out of this tent.  There was one of them in it the entire time we were there.  Mark called it a Bear Taco.

This is Wendy getting everything set up.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

Something is wrong with this photo.  There are only three lawn chairs.  Obviously they were packed when I wasn’t planning to come out.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

Wendy had some help from Marley in setting things up.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

This is the view from the back of the campsite.  Just through the trees is the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway which thrilled all of us when it rolled through between five and ten times a day/night.  Some might have found it bothersome but we loved it.  The railway were such a big part of the story of Banff National Park, it was cool to hear them roll through, even if it didn’t make for the best alarm clock.

Views of the Johnston Canyon Campground in Banff National Park

I had originally wanted to stay in the Castle Mountain Campground because of it’s location but you can’t reserve there.  In hindsight staying in a place with a hot shower was the right decision.

There were only four showers for 100+ campsites but it was enough.  There was a bit of a lineup in the evenings but most people took really quick showers (although Wendy waited as a women took a 40 minute shower one morning).  The one oddity of the campground was there was two plugins in each washroom which were always being used as people charged everything from laptops computer to cameras and phones.

Parks Canada staff kept the washrooms immaculate although one of them said, “It’s not that hard, people are really good here.”  I’ll take her word for it but the fact remains those washrooms were the cleanest of any campground we had ever seen.

The campground wasn’t that large and was extremely quiet.  We were surrounded by Americans and Europeans for most of it.  It was hectic in the morning as everyone got up and got going, then it was silent for for most of the day as everyone was gone.  It got slightly busier at night but mostly people flaked out after a long day of hiking.  There were two cycling clubs there who were working out together in the mountains all day long.  Most of the noise was people slowly cycling by.  If you are looking for a nice campground, this is it.

On being a dad (and hiking with kids)

So we just got back from Prince Albert National Park today.  We had planned to hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin.  We got up early on Saturday, navigated a nasty Kingsmere Drive to the trailhead (it’s under heavy construction) and then started out.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

The biggest question I had during the build up to this was how was Oliver going to hold up on the hike and with a pack.  His pack fit him well, only had his sleeping bag, some clothes and his headlamp and knife in it but 40 kilometers over two days is really hard for anyone let alone an 8 year old.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

He started out fine but even at the first campground, he was struggling.  As we pushed on we passed kilometer six and he had tears running down his eyes and was saying, “I’m okay Dad, I’m okay.”  He wasn’t.  His feet were killing him.  He had hikers on but it wasn’t working.Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

I have read all sorts of articles on REI and MEC about pushing kids too hard.  It turns a hike into a forced march and makes them hate doing this.  Since hiking is Oliver’s favorite thing in the world right now, I didn’t want to do this too him.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

As we came into the Chipewyan Portage, I talked to Wendy and said we are staying here for the night.  He’s in pain and not having fun.  He wasn’t going to make it to Grey Owl’s.

I suggested the idea to him and he seemed so relieved.  Then he came and said, “I’m tough enough to keep going.”  I just said that this looked like a good place to camp (and it was).  Of course we had two tents and it was a one tent campground but I was willing to explain my decision to any Parks Canada warden who came by says it has a two tent campground.  We may or may not have been using that campsite but I’m not sure.  When we got it, it just looked like a picnic area and a one tent campground but I’ll defer to Parks Canada on this one.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver took off his hikers and put on his Dawgs but even then could barely walk he was in so much pain.  He got better as the night went on but he had given it all he had.

Around 8:00 p.m., a light drizzle gave away to an impressive storm.  Mark had a rain poncho on so he got the food up on the bear platform (anti bear platform?) and made sure no food was close to our tents.  We had cooked well away from them but by the fact that you have to do that makes you realize how deep you are into bear country.

The storm continued for most of the night.  The winds came up and we started to hear the trees snap during the night.  Parks Canada does a really good job of thinning out the trees near your campground so there are no “widow makers”  near but hearing those trees snap in the middle of the night is a terrifying sound especially when they are so close.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

At 4:10 a.m., I heard an animal near by.  Our tents have gazebos and were shut up for the night.  Wendy and I have the Mountain Hardware Drifter 2 person tent which has two entrances.  I had found a baseball sized branch and had put it outside my side of the tent earlier just in case.  I had grabbed my headlamp and was ready to go check it out but it just sniffed around what sounded like the firepit (which we hadn’t used for this very reason) and kept on walking.   There were bear tracks on the trail area this morning.  It worked out the best for both of us.  For me I didn’t have to get muddy and for the bear, he didn’t get his butt kicked.

Leave No TraceWe had a big breakfast, cleaned up our campground, and started the hike back to the Ford Flex.  We took the Leave No Trace philosophy seriously.  We packed out the garbage from the campground.  Before we left Mark and I restacked the firewood and replenished the wood we used the night before.  The campground was a mess before we got there with several large areas burned for bonfires by the beach (really people) and we did our best to clean some of that up as well.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Oliver was good until the last 750 metres and then he was in pain and crying.  I had Wendy and Mark go ahead and open up the car and get him and I an ice cold Gatorade.  Just as we came out of the trailhead Mark came running up and took Oliver’s pack and gave him and I cold drink.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

We met a teen girl who was solo hiking to Grey Owl’s the day before.  I had chatted with her dad as she left and she had made the hike and left early in the morning to get back early to meet her dad.  She was chilling out at the trail head when we got back so Wendy took a cold drink down to her who seemed really happy with it.  She was also surprised that Oliver had hiked as far as he did.  That picked up his spirits and he left feeling in a good mood.  The encouraging words of a mom, dad, and brother mean one thing but a compliment from a girl he only met hours before, well that is next level.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

From there it was into Waskesiu to get some Doritos and then the long ride home.

Hiking to Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Next year we will try to make it to Sandy Bay.

I can pretty demanding of the boys but as I have always told them, all I want to see is there best effort at things.  Oliver put in a huge effort.  He told me that, “I didn’t have enough left in the tank.” which is a great use of a sports cliche but I said back to him, “At eight years old, your tank may not have been big enough and that is okay.”

Can you do me a favor?

Follow Oliver Cooper on YouTube

Oliver turns 8 tomorrow and when I asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he wanted to shoot a Casey Neistat type video about his day tomorrow.  That isn’t going to be that hard to create or edit and I thought I would just upload it to my channel.  Then Oliver realized that he doesn’t have a YouTube Channel of his own and was stressed.  Last night I built one for him and you can find it here.  He ruthlessly micromanaged me while I made the edits today.

So he was thrilled with it until tonight when he realized he has no subscribers and is worried his video will be a flop.  Can you do me a favor and subscribe to his channel tonight or tomorrow?  A couple dozen subscribers would make his day.  That way when I upload this video tomorrow night, he’ll have an audience.

Thanks!

Microsoft Lumia 650

Mark dropped his Moto G cellphone last winter and I bought him an Acer Liquid z220 as a replacement.  The phone was okay but the bad thing was that I could not find a case for it anywhere except for a universal case which he didn’t like.  So he dropped it last week and then ran into a wall yesterday morning with it in his shorts.  I saw him run into the way and I still don’t know how it happened.

Anyways, the phone screen was dead and the cost to repair it wasn’t worth it.

We went looking for some phones today and didn’t find anything worth getting excited for.  He is working so he wanted cheap since he is paying it back but I reminded him that if he gets a decent one, it will last longer.  We went looking for another Moto G when I was reminded of a Twitter conversation I had with noted Windows evangelist Darren Sproat.  Microsoft has the new Microsoft Lumia 650 on for really cheap right now, obviously as a loss leader to get people to try out Windows phone. 

Microsoft Lumia 650 phone

It was only $199.99 with free shipping which shocked me because that is the exact same amount of money they are selling it from the U.S. store which saves him about 20%.  The Moto G was going to be about $300 after taxes and fees so he is happy.  The phone in unlocked which means he can take it with him if he decides to move on from Virgin Mobility.

I know everyone goes on about apps but the phone:

  • Makes outgoing phone calls
  • Accepts incoming phone calls
  • Texts
  • Tweets
  • Surfs the net
  • Has a camera, takes photos and HD video.
  • Instagram
  • Plays YouTube videos

It will do what he needs it to do and will be here in a week.

Hiking the Spruce River Highlands Trail

Yesterday we got up early, grabbed our travel backpacks and headed north to Prince Albert National Park.  The line was long to get in but we by-passed it since we already had purchased our Parks Canada Discovery Pass on Mother’s Day.

We drove through Waskesiu and headed back down Highway 263 where we stopped at the trailhead for the Spruce River Highlands Trail.  It is a 8.5 km loop through a glacier shaped terrain.

About a kilometre in the trail there is a 10 meter tower that let’s you gaze over the forest. Many people only take this short trail, but I encourage you to explore the entire trail.

I expected it would take us three hours and in fact, it took four.  The trail is rated as moderate to strenuous and that’s about right.  It was a tough hike with few rewarding views.  You can get a nice view of Anglin Lake an it does drop down to the river bottom for about 100 meters but in the end, it was a tough slog.  Some of trails are either straight up or straight down which is why it so slow.  In other places the trail is at a sharp angle as it goes along the hillside.

The Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highland Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkRIMG3589The Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National ParkThe Spruce River Highlands Trail in Prince Albert National Park

The trail does have one challenging bog crossing.  I came out of it with muddy shoes and attacked by bugs but I considered that to be a lot of fun.  Also as Mark and I were crossing, Wendy and Oliver had walked ahead and had a really close encounter with an adolescent moose which made Oliver’s day.  The dog had the bear bell on her and there wasn’t any wind so the moose should have heard them coming.  Then again, it may have as according to Wendy and Oliver, seemed to check them out and then walk away.

We took the hike to see how my ankle responded (good) and how Oliver does on longer hikes (he did good as well) but this was a big test for Marley.  Last year as a puppy, every trail was a struggle with her and she was out of control with pulling and chasing every single noise.  This hike we put the dog backpack and bear bell on her (which we thought she would hate) and she was chilled out and relaxed for every single step, even when she came face to face with the moose.  She behaved better than I had ever hoped. 

With that figured out, I am a lot more confident in taking her to Grey Owl’s Cabin in June and Banff National Park in July.   The walk did wear her out.  She got out of the car, made it halfway across the living room to her bed, laid down and went back to sleep. 

Back to the trail.  We ran into several hikers going both ways and the hikers we ran into without walking poles all wished they had one.  It make a big difference crossing the bogs and walking along the trails on a steep pitch and angle.  Personally I didn’t need for them going up the trails but going down they were amazing, especially with my balance a work in progress.

I should have expected this for May Long weekend but there were no trail guides at the trail head and all of the markers had been removed, probably for maintenance.  I thought about grabbing my GPS but I had a compass and wasn’t worried about getting lost.  What I didn’t expect was that unlike several other Prince Albert National Park trails, there wasn’t a lot of landmarks that would make it easy to calculate distance back to the trailhead.  Without markers or a map, I had no real idea how much longer it was going to take which made it seem longer than it was.  It did for me.

That was kind of exasperated by the fact that we ran into some exhausted and uptight hikers on the trail who weren’t equipped with proper equipment or footwear and weren’t expecting the trail to be as difficult or as long.  So if you are thinking of taking the trail, bring a stand alone GPS (there is no cell coverage in that part of the park) for no other reason than just knowing how long the trail will be and where you are on it.

The only upgrades I would make the trail would be a couple of red chairs on the ride that overlooks Anglin Lake and then down by the river with some signage letting people how much longer.  Both would be amazing rest/reading spots.

Mark turns 16 today

So Mark turned 16 today.  We got him up early, gave him his gifts, and then sent him off to school.  After I was done work, we took him out for a steak dinner at Mr. Mikes Steakhouse Casual.  Then it was off to find him his signature hat.  I am not sure I agreed with his choice but it was his.

Mark Cooper turning 16 years oldWendy and Mark Cooper

The other big news from the day is that Oliver is now an orange belt in Karate.  He passed his evaluation last week and got the big news today.  So we are proud of both the boys and had a nice night out.

Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day today. You can see what we did on Wendy’s blog.  It was a great day and I am glad we had it but I wanted to write a bit about my mom.

Mom died in 1998 of brain cancer.  I was attending the University of Saskatchewan and I remember walking about of the U of S and going to the RUH where they kept her in palliative care because it was so much easier for my sister and I.  I would walk out of class and sit beside her for weeks hoping for whatever conversation she could have.  It wasn’t much.  By the time she was in the hospital, the tumor was winning and she treated me like I was a child.  She did that to my brother and sister as well.

It was a weird time.  Go to the hospital, go to class, back to hospital over lunch, back to RUH, grab supper at Alexander’s, then back to hospital.  It was like that for weeks.  I don’t remember feeling a lot of emotion at the time, she was dying and there wasn’t anything we could do about it and plus someone had to crack jokes around her and appear that we had our crap together as her kids.

Wendy and I were there with my sister when Mom took her last breath.  We called in a nurse because no one had died in front of me at that time, the nurse came in, assured us that she wasn’t in pain and then the doctor confirmed she was dead.  We cleaned out her room of personal belongings, paid for parking at RUH and drove to Lee’s high school where I told him that our mom had just died and then drove him home.

Wendy had called her parents to let them know that Marion had died but they were too busy interrupting her about how muddy the floors were in Brandon, Manitoba to listen.  It’s a conversation that still makes Wendy angry.

After that was done, it was up to getting ready for the funeral.  Mom wanted the burial to be first and then the funeral.  So we buried her and then went to the Saskatoon Inn for brunch.  Later was the funeral and I gave the eulogy.  My mom was a life long Progressive Conservative voter and proud of it except she had a lack of judgement in 1968 and voted for Trudeau.  She used to joke about this skeleton in the closet.  When I told that story at her funeral, someone  I didn’t know got up and walked out at that point.  No matter who that person was that walked out, my mom would have wanted that story told.

There was the funeral and the condolences and then we went home an ordered Vern’s Pizza.  It was really hot and wrecked the coffee table finish, something that bugged me for years every time I looked at it.  Then it was done.   I had felt nothing. 

I didn’t feel a thing until about a three months later when I was at home alone.  Wendy would work evenings and the phone would ring and for a split second, I would think it was mom.  I never knew how to deal with it.  I am a INTJ with Myers Briggs which means that I am what they call an underdeveloped feeler.  I don’t really under my feeling and it doesn’t understand me but the pain and loss was incredible.  Every day that phone would ring it was a reminder that she was gone. 

Stuff kept falling apart with the family.  My brother and sister were living together and struggling.  I didn’t know how to help.  All our lives lurched along for a while but we all seemed lost.  My sister and brother went to live with my father.  Wendy and I stayed here.  I knew it was the wrong thing but I couldn’t persuade anyone of it.

Life changed for my mom the day before my brother was born when my dad walked out for another women.  She was devastated and crushed.  She told me what happened a month or so later.  I still remember every word from that conversation.  I was eight.

All of our lives changed on that day.  It never got easier for us.  I was messed up, my sister was seriously ill and my brother was just days old.  There was court battles and visitation rights and financial struggles that never ended.  It took me years to get my head around what happened and what it did to me.  My mom bore the brunt of it.  Instead of making it easier for her, I made it much harder.  Sadly we never had the kind of relationship either of us wanted.  I was a rebellious oldest son and she needed me to to be a better and more responsible one, characteristics I came by later in life.  I needed to her to let me be a kid once in while and be a kid, something that the stress of the finances and her depression couldn’t let her do.

Despite me being, well a teenager, she was the one that would encourage me to be a better writer.  She read more short stories of mine growing up than any parent should ever endure.   Mom never really understood my desire to create.  She was trained as a math teacher which was about study and discipline, things I was never good at until later.  In many ways, I was the opposite of her.

Being the opposite of her, she saw a lot of my father in me.  To be honest, I think she was projecting because he couldn’t stand who I was either.  I remember her yelling at me that I was like my father once and going to myself, “I think he’d take that as an insult as well”.  I wasn’t like either one of them.  She was a math teacher, he was a driven oilfield consultant.  I was just a kid that wanted to read history.

Of course being a kid, I was never disciplined and yet it my mom’s incredible discipline that kept the family housed and fed.  I don’t know if I was much different than other kids but she spent most of our her life being disappointed in me.

When it finally started to get better, the tumor started to affect her.  Doctors blamed stress from her kids.  She did too.  She was angry and lashed out at me and I had no idea what was happening.  When we found out she had a tumor (on Mother’s Day), it was both horrible and allowed us to have some healing.   She managed to see Wendy and I get married and loved Wendy but within two months, she couldn’t talk anymore.  The next spring she had passed away. 

I think about her a lot.  Wendy’s family rejected her when she told them of her childhood abuse.  They don’t know our kids and I don’t think they would recognize Wendy if she passed them in a mall or on the street.  In the last conversation I had with my father, he made it clear how much he couldn’t stand me or Wendy.  I don’t even know if he knows Oliver exists.  It’s lonely having almost no family and as much as it was hard growing up, I knew Mom loved me.   It doesn’t seem like a lot but on a day like today when we know that all of the surviving parents can’t stand Wendy or myself, it is a lot.

My regret is that my mom never saw either her grandkids grow up.  I’m not a perfect parenting and to be honest, some of my parenting appears to be the work of a mad scientist but I think she would have been pleased in the kids of kids Mark and Oliver have become.   She was also scared that I would leave Wendy as my father had done to us.

I remember sitting there in the hospital telling her that I remembered every detail of the day she told me that my father had left and that I would never make anyone I cared about go through that again.  During the worst of Wendy’s depression I remember laying on the sofa thinking, “this isn’t as bad as that day was”.  It’s been almost 19 years and 15 Mother’s Days later and we are still holding on.  I wish she could have seen that part.

Heading back to Ogema

By the time this publishes, I will be driving a 2016 Ford Focus (not the one below, this one is white) south to Regina where I meeting up with adventurer and author Robin Esrock.  He is a Ford Canada brand ambassador.  After meeting up (and I assume getting coffee at the Starbucks), we are heading south to Ogema, Saskatchewan (a place where I explored last year with Ford), testing out some food, riding the Southern Prairie Railway, taking in a museum, and then heading back to Regina.

In Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan with a 2015 Ford Focus

Wendy and the boys are coming along for the trip.  Instead of heading south with us, they are going to explore Regina and in particular, Wascana Lake and the Saskatchewan Legislature.  I’ll post some photos from the trip to the blog tonight.  I assume they will as well.

If you don’t want to read my account of the day, check out Elan Morgan’s blog.  It’s always a good read.

There is a book signing with Robin Esrock in Regina at 7:00p.m.  at the Chapters.  If you come on out, I’ll be there.  I won’t sign your book but we could totally do a selfie or something over coffee. 

New Windows 10 box

Mark wrote about this as well this weekend but I decided to upgrade his laptop this weekend.  His laptop runs Windows Vista and while it does a not bad job of it, it would need some more RAM to handle Windows 10.  I was pricing out the memory and the license for Windows 10 when I noticed that OTV had some Lenovo ThinkCentre desktop computers coming off lease that had way more power and were less than the Windows 10 license.  Not only that but they included a copy of the 64 bit version of Windows 7 (which of course upgrades to Windows 10).  The machine will handle a total of 16 gb of RAM so that was a plus as well.  I’ll add some more memory to this summer.

I picked that up with a $15 Logitech keyboard and mouse and took it home.  We had an extra monitor in the basement but as I go to grab it, Wendy and Mark tell me that  they threw it out in a cleaning purge.  Excellent.  So it was back to OTV where they had a 19.5 inch monitor on for $50.

Still it was cheaper than upgrading Windows and the RAM.

So we got it going, connected it to the interweb, and then used Ninite to download and install the freeware programs like Evernote, Dropbox, Google Chrome, Apple iTunes, Spotify and other programs.  The one thing I didn’t download is Libre or Open Office which I have come to believe are some of the most bloated pieces of software available.  Instead I was going to download AbiWord and have him use Google Sheets for a spreadsheet but I was in London Drugs where they had Corel WordPerfect Office Home and Student on for only $34.97.  It’s not Microsoft Office but it is a lot better than Libre Office in terms of speed and features.

This is off topic but I thought I would take a moment to mention how much I miss Lotus Smart Suite which included Lotus 1-2-3 but more importantly Lotus Ami Pro (later called Lotus Word Pro).  While I am it, I also miss Microsoft Works which I did an awful lot of writing on.  I really miss Works suites.  I wish someone would do one again.

The last bit of freeware software I put on his computer is Serif Publisher Starter Edition.  It is designed for beginners and gives him far more control than either WordPerfect or a word processor will give him.

I am kind of careful about fonts.  So many collections of freeware fonts have commercial fonts in them.  Years ago a graphic designer I know realized he had some illegal fonts in his collection and purged them and then put together some excellent freeware font CDs.  I installed them and then added some excellent commercial fonts that I have the license for.  He isn’t into page layout of print design but if he ever is, he will have a nice system for it.

I love my laptop and have no problems with it but the joy of a full sized keyboard and an almost 20 inch screen was pretty awesome as well.

The upgrade to Windows 10 took overnight to download but once that was done, it was good to go this morning.  Am always amazed at how powerful machine I was able to get him for so little money.  I grew up with DOS and then Windows.  After 4 years with a Mac and OSX, I like being back with Windows and the PC world again.

Cell Phone Down

Yesterday Wendy came to me all upset and said she had dropped both of our iPhones.  Mine was fine but her phone had a smashed screen.  I wasn’t that upset.  Those things happen although two in a month (ahem Mark) was kind of painful.  When Mark broke his screen, I went to Costco and bought him a Acer Liquid Z410 for $130.  I picked up a 16gb Micro SD card from Don’s Photo for $15 and he was set.  For being so cheap, I was really happy with his phone.  It also has DTS Sound in it so even without a Bluetooth speaker the sound is good.

Wendy felt horrible but I was secretly happy.  Our contracts come up this summer with Bell and I had no idea what phone to get.  I was tempted to get some unlocked phones from Costco and save the money on our monthly bill.  I’m happy with Bell (and Mark is with Virgin) but it’s nice to have options.  Now I only have to figure out what I am going to do.  I am personally thinking of a Windows phone but I am always tempted to go back to Blackberry or a Windows Phone.

Acer Jade Z

Instead of picking up the Acer Liquid Z410, I got her the larger Acer Liquid Jade Z.

Features:

  • Display: 5-in. IPS TFT LCD
  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth® 4.0 with EDR
  • Screen resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Operating system: Android™ 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Main camera: 13 MP AF with flash LED
  • Battery: Built-in 2,300 mAh rechargeable Li-polymer battery with up to 7 hours of talk time
  • Wi-Fi
  • Capture 30 fps FWVGA (MP4, H.264, H.263)
  • 720p video recording
  • Processor: Quad-core 1.5 GHz, MT6732
  • Dual micro SIM
  • 16 GB storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • MicroSD™ memory card expansion slot (card not included)
  • In-cell type touch lens with direct bonding
  • Side keys: volume up/down
  • Power key on top of device
  • LED indicator lights for charging, missed call, new message, lower battery
  • Google virtual keyboard
  • GPS Satellite data updates

For $220, it was a steal (way cheaper in store than online). 

The only thing  I don’t like about it is that it was a pain to find a case for it.  I ordered one for Wendy’s and Mark’s from Amazon.ca.  The price is right but they won’t be here until the end of March because I assume they are shipping from Taiwan or China.